I come from a family of wowsers*, but my father – a member, at least in theory, of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association – was a hard-working man and not averse to an occasional beer on a hot day. We would line up to sip the froth off the top. Thus began my love affair with the brown beverage.
I don’t remember what brand Dad’s beer actually was, only that it came in large brown bottles and, to my infant tastebuds, seemed slightly bitter with a sweetish aftertaste. I can be 100 per cent certain that it was made by either Lion or DB, because that was all you got in New Zealand in those days. It was probably DB Bitter or Double Brown. It was quite a few years before I actually started drinking alcohol in earnest, and while I gravitated towards gin and tonic, fluffy ducks and the infamous Pink Chardon like other girls, I always had a sneaking soft spot for beer.
In London in the 90s I traumatised young men by ordering pints. Apparently women were not supposed to drink them. I stunned them more by drinking pints of bitter. I figured that if I was in England I should at least try their famous warm beer and it tasted all right to me. But before long I was back on the lagers like everybody else, though the power of a good advert won me over to Boddingtons, and obviously I drank Guinness, because it was food and better for you than chips.
I returned to New Zealand to find everybody drinking Speights – formerly of “drink Speights, lose your mates” renown – and something called Canterbury Draught which had apparently been drunk in my province since the dawn of history. Close perusal of the label revealed that CD was in fact Wards. Wards was what old drunk men in pubs had sipped while we pranced about quaffing our trendy Rheineck. In the late 90s, marketing made the least cool beers very cool indeed. But something else had come to the party by then. Proper wine.
Now, I do not have a particularly good palate. My sense of smell is compromised and I can barely tell a fine pinot noir from a scuzzy merlot out of a box. Still, I like a nice tasting drink, and most red wine is palatable enough. (Unless it’s Veluto Rosso. That stuff shouldn’t still be allowed.) So I went through a wine phase. But wine is not low in alcohol and sometimes gives one a headache. It’s also horrible on a hot afternoon. So beer was always an alternative. And just at the point where wine was starting to pall, beer hit back -with a thing called craft.
The rise of genuine craft beers in New Zealand coincided with a rise in my bank balance and a job that kept me out till the wee hours. Primed by pilsner and the occasional foray into Weird Stuff They Have At The Supermarket, I was soon devoted to IPAs and APAs and just about anything hoppy. I revelled in red ales and forked out for $15 pints of fancy things. Beer with chilli in it. Chocolate beer. Beer that tastes like an Anzac biscuit.
A recent change in fortune means no more $15 pints for me, at least not right now. Frugality is my new buzzword. But nobody should deny themselves completely. A couple of days ago I completed a couple of new, unfamiliar classes and, on a post-teaching high, decided that, much like That Man, I deserved a DB. As it happened DB was all that was available, so I went the whole hog and bought a pint of draught.
It was hideous.
At lunchtime today I ordered a mainstream red ale. It was also hideous.
I may have a little bit of a budgeting problem.